KEARNEY – Two Kearney leaders and a western Nebraska banker are the newest members of the
GROW Nebraska Board of Directors.
Richard L. Johnson, senior vice president of Adams Bank & Trust in Ogallala; Kristi Gargan,
marketing director at Buzz’s Marine; and Kirsti Schack, retail manager at First National Bank Kearney
Branch, will now serve on the statewide GROW Nebraska board.
Johnson said he joined the board to help customers in the western part of Nebraska benefit from
all the great resources offered by GROW Nebraska.
“The training opportunities offered by GROW appear to be top notch, and their network of
services help small businesses get exposure they could never afford individually,” Johnson said.
Besides his 25 plus years in the banking industry, Johnson also brings to the board a wealth of
knowledge in volunteer leadership. His service includes past president of the Nebraska Kidney
Association, past state officer of Nebraska Lions Clubs, local Lions Club member, member/president
of multiple chambers of commerce, past board member of the Nebraska Workforce Development,
past committee member of the Nebraska Bankers Association, Relay for Life volunteer and a past
board member of community development organizations in multiple communities.
Johnson said during his time on the GROW board, he would like to expand the organization’s
presence in western Nebraska and develop more funding sources.
“In addition, I want to increase the awareness of the organization and its benefits to (and for) all
Nebraskans,” he said.
Johnson and his wife, Constance, are both graduates of Kearney State College. They have two
Former GROW Nebraska Business Development Director Kristi Gargan has also started her term
on the non-profit organization’s board of directors.
Gargan, who is the marketing director at Buzz’s Marine, said her entire career has been focused
on helping businesses grow.
“It’s a passion of mine,” she said. “I’ve also been an entrepreneur, and I know the struggles that
many small businesses face. I love GROW’s mission and want to continue to help on another level.”
Gargan worked for GROW Nebraska for eight months before returning to her job at Buzz’s
Marine, so she saw firsthand the ins and outs of the non-profit.
GROW Nebraska membership has many benefits, but Gargan said the member webpage is one of
the biggest assets for businesses. The member webpage improves SEO rankings and increases a
business’ chance of showing up on the first page of Google.
In her term on the board of directors, Gargan said she would like to promote awareness of
GROW Nebraska across the state.
“Our community and state are unaware of the GROW Nebraska Foundation,” Gargan said. “We
have roughly 400 members, and it should be thousands. I think it’s important that I, as well as the
other board members, assist in spreading awareness and what GROW can do for entrepreneurs and
small business owners.”
Besides GROW Nebraska, Gargan also has served as a Make-A-Wish volunteer, Make-A-Wish
Granter and Make-A-Wish Friends Council Member (past president 2014) since 2011. She also is a
member of Faith United Methodist Church, Meadowlark PAC and the Kearney Area Chamber of
Commerce. She is originally from South Sioux City, Neb., and graduated from the University of
Nebraska at Kearney with a degree in business administration.
Gargan and her husband, John, have two daughters, Reese, 7, and Maci, 4.
A passion for small businesses and entrepreneurs led Kirsti Schack, retail manager at First
National Bank Kearney Branch, to become involved as a new board member of GROW Nebraska.
“Being in banking, I have seen many folks start their business with the change from their piggy
bank and turn it into something wonderful,” Kirsti said.
“GROW believes in just that, investing in
our small businesses and especially entrepreneurs across the state, and it is important for me to
volunteer time where I am passionate.”
Kirsti has worked in various roles at the Kearney bank for the past 15 years and has served as
the branch manager for eight years. She will serve as the co-treasurer on the GROW Nebraska
Board of Directors. Her years of experience in the banking world bring new insights to the GROW
“My banking and financial background help me to see everything from another point of view,”
Kirsti said she learned that GROW is much more than just a retail store when she was
approached about joining the board.
“As I continue to learn more and more about the organization, I think it is important to help
share with our community what GROW could do for them,” she said.
GROW Nebraska is a non-profit organization that help entrepreneurs get the resources they
need to live anywhere in Nebraska and make a sustainable living. Since its inception in 1998, it has
strived to be the premier educational nonprofit that empowers entrepreneurs through business
training, technical assistance, promotion and market opportunities.
Besides the GROW board, Kirsti’s other community involvements include: Leadership Kearney,
past board Secretary; Leadership Kearney Alumni; SAFE Center volunteer; First Lutheran Church
member; UNK Alumni Association; Relay for Life committee member; Junior Achievement
teacher/volunteer; Kenwood Elementary PTO; Sonshine World Childcare PAC Member.
Kirsti and her husband, Jared, have been married for 8 ½ years, and they have a son, Mason
who just turned 7, and a son, Austin who just turned 2.
When she’s not working or volunteering,
Kirsti enjoys spending time with the family outside either playing in their giant waterslide
inflatable or golfing.
GROW Nebraska is a statewide educational non-profit organization that provides
marketing, technical assistance and training opportunities to more than 400 Nebraska business
owners. GROW Nebraska board members serve 3-year terms and hail from locations across